24 January 2007

To Eat or Not to Eat

When I got back here after our long holiday in the States, I got right back to exercising. I felt pretty good about myself, going to the gym after dropping Katrina off at school. After all, this is the person who has rarely exercised with any kind of consistency. Here I am, starting a new year by being an old pro at this working out thing.

However, I didn’t quite get right back to dieting. And by dieting, I mean exercising any self-control over what and how much I eat. Exercise is all well and good, but if I end a workout by eating everything in sight because I feel (1) so hungry or (2) like I deserve a treat for sweating on the stationary bike, the pounds are not exactly going to melt off. In fact, they might even start clinging to me again, especially if the weather is rainy and dark and depressing and popcorn or hot chocolate or brownies sound pretty good right now.

Aye, there’s the rub. If ever I learned to eat when I’m hungry and stop eating when I’m full, I’d have this weight thing licked. But for me, like many of us, food comes wrapped untidily in emotions. They don’t call certain things “comfort foods” for nothing. Mashed potatoes, ice cream, anything creamy, soothes and anesthetizes. Chips, nuts, crunch and salt, is an outlet for frustration, anger, or simple fatigue. Good homemade buttered popcorn is a celebration in itself. And the food we want—heck, sometimes feel that we need—to fill emotional hunger is almost never healthy food. No, those darker emotions come fried in fat and coated in sugar. Whoever heard of a woman craving broccoli when she has PMS?

That’s when I come to the notion of food as an addiction and myself as an addict. If not eating chocolate or sweetened tea or fried potatoes makes life seem dark and joyless, there’s something wrong with my relationship to food. There is an unhealthy pull toward overeating, and eating non-nutritious foods, that I recognize every time I eat “just one more bite.”

Bundled up with that is my gluten-free status. The conversation goes like this:

Healthy Jen: I should eat an apple, not chocolate or ice cream.
Bratty Jen: But I don’t get to eat SO MANY things. I want to eat what I want to eat! I am deprived of crusty bread, so I should get to eat ice cream! Nyah, nyah, nyah! (Bratty Jen sounds a lot like Katrina having a tantrum. I’m sure there are all sorts of psychological interpretations to that one.)

Which "voice" wins depends on the time of day and, really, how my day is going.

Over at The Amazing Shrinking Mom, Mel blogs about her low-glycemic-index diet. The purist in me likes the idea of just cutting out sugar and starch and refined flours. It’s certainly an easier way of eating than writing down and tracking everything that goes into your mouth, like when I was on Weight Watchers (on and off—who can do that for a lifetime? People more organized than me.). But, but, no bratkartoffeln? No brownies? No ICE CREAM?!

The start of the Lutheran liturgy says, “We confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.” Sometimes I feel like I am in bondage to sugar. Can I free myself? Do I really want to?

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